Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an
American ad campaign: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”
The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as Ke-kou-ke-la.
Unfortunately, the Coke company did not discover until after thousands of signs
had been printed that the phrase means “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse
stuffed with wax” depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000
Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent, “ko-kou-ko-le,” which
can be loosely translated as “happiness in the mouth.”
In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi
Generation” came out as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.”
Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan “finger-lickin’ good” came
out as “eat your fingers off.”
The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, “Salem – Feeling Free,” got
translated in the Japanese market into “When smoking Salem, you feel so
refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty.”
When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it was
apparently unaware that “no va” means “it won’t go.” After the company figured
out why it wasn’t selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to
Ford had a similar problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company
found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for “tiny male genitals”. Ford pried all
the nameplates off and substituted Corcel, which means horse.
When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to
say “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” However, the company’s
mistakenly thought the spanish word “embarazar” meant embarrass. Instead the
ads said that “It wont leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”
An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the spanish market
which promoted the Pope’s visit. Instead of the desired “I Saw the Pope” in
Spanish, the shirts proclaimed “I Saw the Potato.”
Chicken-man Frank Perdue’s slogan, “It takes a tough man to make a tender
chicken,” got terribly mangled in another Spanish translation. A photo of Perdue
with one of his birds appeared on billboards all over Mexico with a caption that
explained “It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused.”
Hunt-Wesson introduced its Big John products in French Canada as Gros Jos
before finding out that the phrase, in slang, means “big breasts.” In this case,
however, the name problem did not have a noticeable effect on sales.
Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious
In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into
Schweppes Toilet Water.
Japan’s second-largest tourist agency was mystified when it entered English-
speaking markets and began receiving requests for unusual sex tours. Upon
finding out why, the owners of Kinki Nippon Tourist Company changed its
In a Bucharest hotel lobby: The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that
time we regret that you will be unbearable.
In a Leipzig elevator: Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up.
In a Belgrade hotel elevator: To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor.
If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of
wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.
In a Paris hotel elevator: Please leave your values at the front desk.
In a hotel in Athens: Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the
hours of 9 and 11 a.m. daily.
In a Yugoslavian hotel: The flattening of your underwear with pleasure is the
job of the chambermaid.
In a Japanese hotel: You are welcome to take advantage of the chambermaid.
In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery: You
are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers,
artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.
In an Austrian hotel catering to skiers: Not to perambulate the corridors in the
hours of repose in the boots of ascension.
On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.
On the menu of a Polish hotel: Salad a firm’s own make; limpid red beet soup
with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef
rashers beaten up in the country people’s fashion.
In a Hongkong supermarket: For your convenience, we reccomend courteous,
In a Bangkok dry cleaner’s: Drop your trousers here for best results.
Outside a Paris dress shop: Dresses for streetwalking.
Outside a Hongkong dress shop: Ladies have fits upstairs.
In a Rhodes tailor shop: Order your summers suit. Because is big rush we will
execute customers in strict rotation.
From the Soviet Weekly: There will be a Moscow Exhibition of Arts by 15,000
Soviet Republic painters and sculptors. These were executed over the past two
In an East African newspaper: A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape
since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workers.
In a Vienna hotel: In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter.
A sign posted in Germany’s Black Forest: It is strictly forbidden on our Black
Forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women,
live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose.
In a Zurich hotel: Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the
opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this
In an advertisement by a Hongkong dentist: Teeth extracted by the latest
A translated sentence from a Russian chess book: A lot of water has been passed
under the bridge since this variation has been played.
In a Rome laundry: Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon
having a good time.
In a Czechoslovakian tourist agency: Take one of our horse-driven city tours.
We guarantee no miscarriages.
Advertisement for donkey rides in Thailand: Would you like to ride on your
In the window of a Swedish furrier: Fur coats made for ladies from their own
On the box of a clockwork toy made in Hongkong: Guaranteed to work
throughout its useful life.
Detour sign in Kyushi, Japan: Stop: Drive Sideways.
In a Swiss mountain inn: Special today- no ice cream.
In a Bangkok temple: It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if
dressed as a man.
In a Tokyo bar: Special cocktails for the ladies with nuts.
In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: We take your bags and send them in all
On the door of a Moscow hotel room: If this is your first visit to the USSR, you
are welcome to it.
In a Norwegian cocktail lounge: Ladies are requested not to have children in the
At a Budapest zoo: Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable
food, give it to the guard on duty.
In the office of a Roman doctor: Specialist in women and other diseases.
In an Acapulco hotel: The manager has personally passed all the water served
In a Tokyo shop: Our nylons cost more than common, but you’ll find they are
best in the long run.
From a Japonese information booklet about using a hotel air conditioner: Cooles
and Heates: If you want just condition of warm in your room, please control
From a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo: When passenger of foot heave in
sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles
your passage then tootle him with vigor.
Two signs from a Majorcan shop entrance:
-English well talking.
-Here speeching American.